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Multiauthor boxed sets: What’s making them so hot (and not)?


Multiauthor boxed sets consisting of six, eight, 12 or more e-books flaunt eye-opening benefits that authors and readers can’t resist. Authors love the collaborative efforts that can pay off with an expanded fan base, a boost in rankings, increased visibility, and a slot on the USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller lists. Readers love the bargains — a box full of e-books by their favorite authors for a dollar. Even after the royalties are divided many ways, the authors claim to make decent sales. Individual authors are also grouping novellas, short stories and novels into boxed-set collections and doing quite well.
Cat Johnson, author of the Oklahoma Nights series. “You are harnessing the power of many authors — their fan bases, their promotional potential. There are many authors, and each one has their own vision and ideas, deadlines and schedules you have to work around and that makes decision-making difficult. Formatting a book that length is a nightmare.”
Caridad PineiroOne Night Only Erotic Romance Anthology and Lucky 7 Bad Boys Contemporary Romance Boxed Set. “You get to meet and work with lots of awesome people who bring all different kinds of skills to the table. The hard part is coordinating that many people, trying to keep that many people focused …”
Stephanie Julian, author of the Salon Games and Indecent erotic romance series. “The positives are exposure beyond your own fan base. With several authors offered in a bundle for a low price, readers are much more willing to pay to read authors they may not have read before. The negative is the accounting that goes into royalties and wrangling that many authors.”
Shoshanna Evers, author of Make Me: Twelve Tales of Dark Desire Boxed Set and The Enslaved Trilogy. “The biggest positive of being part of a large, multiauthor project was all the cross promotion … everyone had great ideas on how to get readers excited about the boxed set.”
The authors who were interviewed said they worked with an accountant or lawyer to organize the finances and fill out tax forms, and some set up an LLC. Each author had to fill out an individual tax form and sent that to the financial person. Retailers like Amazon/BN/Apple won’t divide royalties among all the authors so it goes under one account and must be distributed later.
When so many authors are working toward the success of one project, the results can be significant, but coordinating and planning can be challenging. Authors have the opportunity to network with those savvier in one arena of social media or the publishing business. Author AC James, organizer and contributor of the Spice Box, a 16-book boxed set including five USA TODAY and New York Times bestsellers (and me), worked directly with Mark Coker from Smashwords to set up the pre-order and secure other details at the various retailers. I believe every author in the Spice Boxboxed set discovered something new pertaining to promotion that will benefit their future books.
The authors interviewed used a variety of promotion. Some used paid advertising like Bookblast and the Kindle Fire Department, or used blog tour marketing services. Goodreads, Facebook and Google+ pages and party launches were popular promotion methods as well as regular posts on Twitter and Facebook. Careful keywords selection and pre-orders were also elements that helped drive sales.
Stephanie Julian: “Facebook party, hands down. It gets the readers engaged and interested.”
Shoshanna Evers: “We sent newsletters out to our mailing lists, told our Street Teams, shared on Facebook, on Twitter, etc. We all gave away prizes for various promotions.”
Cat Johnson: “We had some big-name authors in our bundle who had existing large and dedicated fan followings on their social networks, and who had newsletters with large mailing lists. I believe that was probably one of the key things that put us in the zone to hit the NY Times e-book list at No. 8, the combined print/e-book list at No. 11, and the USA TODAY list at No. 14.”


Caridad Pineiro: “Using social media in innovative ways with memes, hashtags and coordinated sharing of posts seemed to be a very effective way of getting the word out about the sets.”
For some bundles, pre-orders helped boost initial sales. Many started with a low 99-cent sale price then either left it at 99 cents or raised it partway through to $2.99 to $5.99. The authors who were interviewed had their sets up for one to three months. As with anything e-books, writing and publishing, there is no right or wrong way.
Besides the bargain, readers will jump to download anything by their favorite authors. Some will read other books in that collection, other won’t.
After reading dozens of reviews for various boxed sets, I noticed why readers tended to give low reviews:
They didn’t like ALL of the stories. When you have a variety of authors in one collection with different styles of writing, it would be rare for a reader to love all the books equally.
The boxed sets received low reviews when the books were only teasers or incomplete books that were the start of the authors’ series. The aim for the collection was to encourage readers to by the completed book. This seems to some readers like a bait and switch technique that will only annoy readers. Readers would probably appreciate fair warning that the collection is only an introduction of each authors’ series, or a sampling.
Shoshanna Evers: “A lot of readers had read one or even a few of the books in the set already and enjoyed them, so they bought the set to get more dark erotica.”
Stephanie Julian: “Most readers are thrilled to be able to read a variety of stories for such a low price. And when they find your story and love it, that’s the best thing in the world.”
Caridad Pineiro: “In general, readers seem to enjoy having a mix of stories to choose from at such a good price, but many readers also said that they had a pile of books that had to be read. Because of that, it seems as if it takes time for readers to get to the sets, read them and review them.”
It’s difficult to say how long the boxed set trend will continue. Trends tend to die out to be replaced by the next big thing. The big bestseller lists may decide to disqualify the multiauthor sets from landing on their lists. Authors may find diminished sales as the trend fades. For the moment, boxed sets are still HOT. They’re popular and profitable and readers can’t seem to get enough.
Kathy Kulig is an award-winning erotic romance author whose works include BDSM, paranormal and romantic suspense. Her latest release is a boxed set titled Spice Box: 16 Novels of Erotic Romance, featuring Red Tape, her sizzling romantic suspense novel. Find out more about her at www.kathykulig.com.
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Electa Graham – Electa’s Blog
Blood and Reign – What I Have Learned

The third book in my paranormal series is with my editor and will becoming out next month. I love this time. I love it for the same reason I love this time of year in my garden. Its the time when all things are possible. I’ve done my very best whether its making sure my soil has the right Ph and enough nutrients or I’ve created the best story I can and honed it until I felt it was as close to perfect as I could get it. Then the rest is up to so many factors it could make your head spin, but that’s also what makes this time exciting.
Once my book is out there, its up to my readers to decide how they feel about it. All I can do is take everything I have learned and give it the best possible chance of success. Farming is the same thing. I use everything I know to get the best possible harvest, but there are still factors beyond my control.
When I think back to when I published my first book I blush at how much I didn’t know. The only thing I had going for me back then was I knew I didn’t know a lot and I sought out people who did. I made friends with people who knew so much more than I did. I still can’t believe I had the balls to reach out and ask people for help, but I’m glad I did.
When I put out Blood and Loss I made my own cover and I didn’t edit it professionally. I didn’t have a “platform”.
I hadn’t even told anyone I was writing a book until it was out. I can’t believe I sold any books. It seems impossible that anyone would be attracted to something so amateurish.
The only saving grace was I wasn’t the only one and I learned from my mistakes. I thought I would discuss some of my mistakes so you can either learn from them, feel smug that you never committed the atrocities I did, or feel better about the mistakes you made.MISTAKE #1 I didn’t get a professional to edit my book.
I went through it a hundred times. Had others read it and pick things up, but it wasn’t nearly good enough. I almost died of embarrassment when I got Blood and Loss back from my editor. The amount of mistakes she corrected made me think I should go back to Middle School and take grammar all over again. Mr. Rackham my grade 7 and 9 english teacher was rolling in his grave. Bottom line in my opinion if you can’t afford to get your book edited then it might be a good idea to wait until you can afford it.

MISTAKE #2 I did the cover myself.
While not the biggest mistake I made I am much happier with the covers I have now. Despite what your mother always told you not to do, people do judge a book by its cover. Mine wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t look professionally done either. Now all three books have beautiful covers. I couldn’t be happier with them.

MISTAKE #3 I published then built my platform
I published my book and then I tried to sell it. The savvy smart authors, sell their book and themselves and then they publish. They are ahead of the game. I was just happy back then to have my book out there finally. An indie author has to be a marketer and a writer. It’s a lot of work and it never ends. You will always have to promote your stuff. Its part of the game.

I made a lot more than these three mistakes, but those are the ones that hurt me the most early on. Despite all that I did do some really smart things. I’ve made so many great friends. They have given me advice, helped me promote my books and given me encouragement. I can’t say enough about indie authors and readers. I have readers who help me promote my books. People I didn’t know before they read my stuff and now they help me get the word out just because they are sweet people. Then there are my fellow indie authors. What other business would you have so many people who would go out of their way to help you. They don’t get anything in return except my gratitude.

I’d love to list everyone here, but I’d miss someone one by mistake and feel horrible, but making new friends and getting to know new people is one of the best things about promoting my books. I only hope they feel I have supported them too.

What do I think you need to be successful besides all of the above? Well first take my advice with a grain of salt as I’m not exactly on the NYT bestsellers list, but it does come from observation, research and intuition. So here we go.

1) Write – seems like a big fat duh!, but you’ll never have monetary success from one book. You need to keep writing. Write as much as you can. I don’t just mean books. I mean anytime you have a chance to write do so. Having a website or a blog is a must. The only way to get better at writing is to write. The only way to communicate and gain a bigger audience is to write.
1a) listen to criticism. Its hard and sometimes painful, but listen to every critique of your work. It doesn’t mean you have to take their advice, but if you’re open to it, you will improve.

2) Advertise – it really is a must if you want to sell to more than family and a few people who stumble onto your book. I was listening to a podcast and there was a women who worked for KOBO and she said there were 300,000 e-books published last year. Someone coming across your book without advertising is like someone finding your McDonald’s cup at the dump. It could happen but…. I’ve been over 200,000 on amazon sales rankings. Even if you narrow that down by genre how long would it take someone to cycle through all those books ahead of you? So whether you do a free promo or put your book on sale or even just advertise its existence you need to do so. I won’t go on about what sites are the best, everyone has their favourites. I will say the sites that allow you to advertise to your specific audience are the best. If you write paranormal fantasy you don’t want your advertising in front of WWII buffs. If you write romance you don’t want your advertisement to be reaching out to the horror lover. You wouldn’t advertise adult diapers at a teen dance. Its a waste of money.

3) Network – I don’t just mean with other authors. Being an indie allows us to have a closer relationship with our readers. I have become friends with a lot of mine. Some have helped me sell my books. Other authors help you on social media. Writing rarely pays the big bucks. I find this part of the job rewarding and fun. Its a perk that I enjoy. If you dread being on twitter, hate facebook and you don’t even want to talk about google + promoting yourself just got a lot harder. I don’t know of being on these pages can really sell a large number of books, it never has for me. I can say you get to sell yourself and when I stop using these sites my sales go to nil.

4) Stick With It – I believe with my whole heart that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You need all these other things, but you also have to stick with it. I sell more books every year. Every time I put out a book or have a promotion more and more of my books are out there. I’m building an audience slowly but surely. Like anything else in life it takes hard work, determination and talent. There are exceptions to all rules, but all the authors I know who are successful have succeeded because they stuck to it and worked hard.

5) Change – Things change all the time. What may have worked last year now won’t get you even one sale. So experiment, research and keep up with whatever the new thing is when it comes to promoting. Once it was the freebie, now most think that’s not the way to go. You have your countdown deals, blog tours etc etc.

4) Have Fun – If you aren’t enjoying the process, you have to ask yourself, why put yourself through all that work. I sometimes get burnt out from all the promotion, but over all I love every part of being an indie author.

May 16th my book comes out. Blood and Reign. I am so excited for everyone to read it. So spread the word if you would be so kind. I forgot about reviews. Love em hate em need em. All equally true. If you have read my books or any other indie author please them them a review. It only takes 20 words on amazon and it really helps with sales

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The NightLife
Anyone up for a beer bath in Prague? Reblogged via @vicdougherty #Czech #Beer #Baddassary #ASMSG

Reblogged via Victoria Dougherty:



Cold’s First Annual Virtual Pub Crawl Thru Prague

prague vole beer gut
Allow me to be presumptuous. I’m assuming that since you follow Cold, you love – or at least appreciate on some level – a great beer or five.
Back in the day when I was a Prague-dweller, beer-drinking wasn’t just for weekends or evenings. You could drink beer any time at all and with absolutely no social repercussions! My boss had a large cardboard box (I mean it could have fit three Barbie Dreamhouses fully assembled) next to his desk and it was piled high with empty beer bottles. In fact, I once sauntered into work around 9:00 am (or thereabouts) and was immediately assaulted by four drunkish colleagues – in addition to said boss – who proceeded to hold me down, lift up my skirt and spank me with a willow branch. I remember thinking during this whole surreal episode, “If this happened to me in America, I’d be rich.”
Men could be seen having a beer for breakfast and no one even blinked.
prague vole pouring beer
Would you like one of these with your coffee and pancakes, sir?
So, in honor of my Prague glory days, I thought I’d take myself and any willing Cold reader on little pub crawl through Prague. I’ll drag you to some of my favorite pubs and beer gardens – even some places I’ve never visited personally, but came highly recommended by Czech friends. I’ll wax nostalgic about wonderful hell-holes that have long-since closed. Communist slop-houses with dirty tablecloths, surly waiters (I’ve been told to “blow myself” for asking for a refill – no joke), food that gives a new Webster definition to the word “greasy,” emphysema inducing air, and great stories with even greater cheap beer.
I’ll even introduce you to where I first met my husband, and you’ll see why we’ve lasted so long.
Ah, so where do we begin? Being that it’s spring, I think we must begin outside, while we’re still sober enough to enjoy a good view.
prague letna view
Behold the Letna Park Beer Garden – hands-down my favorite spot to down a brewsky in Prague. Not only does it offer some of the most beautiful views of the city, but boasts a refreshingly un-diverse menu of traditional Czech food – like this goulash for instance.
prague goulash
They serve Gambrinus beer – at least they used to. It’s a beer named after the King of Flanders for his mythical brewing abilities. In truth, who cares? Because any beer you drink in Prague will be better than the sad, watered-down carbonated glug you’re used to drinking on most nights – even your self-respecting microbrews.
Moving along, once you’ve watched the sunset from Letna, you might be in the mood for something more…cultivated. A nod to Prague’s illustrious past, perhaps. In this case I’ve got two suggestions for you. The first is for the purist. For that, I recommend trekking on over to U Fleku, which is no less than a national landmark. U Fleku is, I believe, the only brewery in Eastern Europe that has been brewing beer for 500 years straight. They started brewing only a few years after Columbus discovered America, in fact, so they’re pretty damned good at it. The food is meh, but it hardly matters. The atmosphere is straight out of the 15th century – and there’s even a beer garden.
prague u fleku
And for something less historical and more posed, but really no less enchanting, you can try any number of medieval “themed” bars. Don’t get turned off by that description. They’re more often than not located in centuries-old buildings and decorated in a style that is totally organic to the Dark Ages. So it’s not like going to a Old World version of TGI Fridays. And the beer, no matter what, will be outstanding. Here’s an example:
prague medieval tavern
What’s great about Prague is that even what you might think would turn out to be a cheesy theme bar can have more magic than any place you’ve ever chugged a pint. The pub where my husband and I met, for instance, was and is still called Molly Malone’s. And yes, in addition to Czech varieties, they do serve Irish beer. But that’s where the similarities end. Molly’s sits in a centuries old building and becomes a fire-lit Pilsner fairy-land once the sun goes down.
This is Molly’s on the outside. I’m blushing.
prague molly malones exterior
For more traditional Czech pub encounters, you still have plenty of options – even if the pubs of yesteryear aren’t quite the dime-a-dozen they used to be. Most of them offer lace curtains, vole (the Czech version of “good ole boys”), families, bad hygiene, ladies who will happily show you a good time, accordion music, beer cheese (you don’t want to know) and no non-smoking section. I love them, but they’re not for everybody.
prague accordion
prague vole
My favorite Czech pub food is Smazeny Syr – or a breaded and deep fried block of cheese served with french fries and copious dollops of mayonnaise. Pardon me while I have my heart-attack.
prague smazeny syr
Don’t know where I can find a beer bath, but Czech this out anyway (bad, I know). Doesn’t it make you want to move there?
prague beer bath 2
And finally, but downright at the top of my list are the pubs of the bygone era – that magnificent time when communism was already kaput, and everyone was free to think, speak, do whatever the bejeezus they wanted to do, but the whole place was still trapped in a time warp anywhere between 1951 and 1968. It was when pubs and restaurants like Deminka and Slovansky Dum had yet to be privatized and still offered great, uber-cheap (as in a few cents) beer, awful food, and a staff that was chronically lazy, rude, utterly classless, smelly and could be counted on for absolutely nothing – except to bring you a fantastic beer.
At Deminka, a waiter actually slapped my head when I dared to pick up the menu off the table. “What would it look like if we let everyone touch it?” he demanded. When I asked for french fries in place of dumplings with my pork, I was told that “Only an idiot would ask for that. Everyone knows it doesn’t go together.”
Sadly, I could find no pictures of those establishments. You’ll have to use your imagination.
But know, that now matter what, at the end of the night you’ll always end up looking like this:
prague pass-out

Czech out Victoria Dougherty:

Victoria Dougherty Bio

author photo
Victoria Dougherty has for nearly twenty years distinguished herself as a master storyteller, writing fiction, drama, speeches, essays, and television news segments/video scripts.
In Prague, Ms. Dougherty co-founded the acclaimed Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting to sold-out audiences in several Czech plays – from Vaclav Havel’s riveting “Protest” to the unintentionally hilarious communist propaganda play “Karhan’s Men.” Black Box Theater was profiled in feature articles in USA Today, International Herald Tribune, and numerous European publications.
Currently, Ms. Dougherty lives with her family in Charlottesville, VA, and has recently completed a series of thematically linked Cold War spy thrillers. She is represented by Josh Getzler of Hannigan Salky & Getzler.
Czech out Vic’s new release: THE BONE CHURCH
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Christoph Fischer Books
NEW RELEASE / REVIEW OF “Triton” by Yelle Hughes

41K8eT7YItL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am proud to announce the release of a particularly enjoyable novel – hot from the press:

“Triton” by Yelle Hughes is an excellent fun read about Greek Gods in modern times. The plot of this inspired novel is spanning the millenia with a twisted family feud that begins in Ancient Greek, moves through the days of Rome and finds its way to contemporary Ohio. Descendants of the Gods and the Immortals themselves do the name Greek Drama proud. Incestuous lusts, improper longings, love, jealousy and revenge – it is all there for you.

The characters themselves are wonderful creations, very much in the way you would like them to be in a novel about Greek mythology, but also some great unexpected additions, such as Poseidon’s aid, George, the dolpin.
Ariadne, a young woman in Ohio, discovers some Greek book and read out the writing while clearing out her grandmother’s belongings, an event that is noticed in the Aegaen and draws attention to her. Pursued also by one of her ancestors and an unsuitable ex-boyfriend, the complications add up nicely and make for an inspired and well unfolding plot.
Hughes has combined existing myths with fresh ones and historical characters with invented ones, but somehow managed to keep the authentic feel of Greek Mythology. I studied ancient Greek at school for 5 years and have had my fill of its history, language and mythology. Hughes’s ‘post-modern’ take on it comes together very well and is intelligent as it is hugely enjoyable.
I’m a huge fan.

Hi guys. I’m Yelle Hughes, mum of three and now a proud grandparent. I’m an avid reader as well as author. I enjoy canoeing, studying the Greek myths, watching action and western movies, and also an unpaid movie critic. 16a9acdfd34b0a8c0911a4.L._V341619370_SX200_

My work is written from the heart and pays homage to people who have passed through my life, just as the seasons pass each year. 

I discovered the world of Greek Mythology in Jr. High and the idea of adding the modern and fantasy worlds together, began to take form.
Twenty years, a marriage, three rugrats and a trip to Greece finally brought to life my series, the Aegean Chronicles (coming soon). A mixing of cultures, humor, sadness and weird sex takes you on an adventure in finding out that romance can be achieved, no matter who you are.

The Book on Your Amazon site: http://bookShow.me/B00K02TUEU

Yelle on Goodreads

twitter username yellehughes



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Phenomenal writing advice from Chuck:




This past weekend, I served as faculty at the wonderful Pike’s Peak Writing Conference in lovely Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, my first job on the first day of the conference was to take part in a roundtable blind critique session of the first pages of several manuscripts.

It’s very cool to be asked to do that, because rarely do I have the opportunity to crush souls and milk dreams of their precious dreamjuice in person. Like, I could critique a page and even though the manuscripts were blind and I did not know to whom they belonged, I could still gaze out into the audience and find the author there, eyes wet and trembling as I bit into their writing with my dread incisors. And then I bellowed “DOOM” and ate the ashen pages as they wept.

Okay, not really. I do not relish the chance to destroy dreams, and I always tried to temper my criticisms with HEY I ALSO LIKED THIS because, quite truthfully, each page always had something I liked. In fact, almost all of them had at least one sentence that I wish I had written.

What was interesting to me, however, was that while each story was very different, my criticisms of those stories often kept to a few common themes. And I thought, as I always do, HEY, HOLY CRAP, BLOG POST. I can pass along my dubious critique and maybe you writers young and old can do something with them. Or maybe you’ll think, “That bearded fucktart can go pound sand,” and that’s fine, too. And bonus points for calling me “bearded fucktart.” SEE, I LIKE YOU.

(As a sidenote, I had originally thought to label this as advice for “aspiring writers,” but I will remind you that aspiring is often the same as dreaming of, but never doing, and really, fuck that noise. This blog is for writers who write. Full stop.)


You don’t realize how much that first page matters until you have to judge a story based on that first page. And then you’re forced to ask the question: “Would I keep reading?”

That first page is the start of the fulfillment of promise of your premise.

It’s saying, “Here is what this story is.” It’s the first taste of a meal — and if someone doesn’t like that first taste, they aren’t always so inclined to continue unless they’re starving for content. And in this day and age? Nobody is starving for content.


You are using too many words to say too few things. And the words you’re using are too big, or poorly chosen, or feel awkward. You’re using exposition where you don’t need any. You’re invoking description that is redundant or unnecessary. You’re giving your characters a wealth of mechanical details and actions that go well-beyond a few gestures and into the territory of telegraphing every eyebrow arch, every lip twitch, every action beat of picking up a coffee mug, blowing on it, sipping from it, setting it back down, picking it back up, drinking from it, on and on.

You’re overwriting.

You’re placing all this language on the page that serves no purpose except its own existence.

You’re not James Joyce.

Cut. Tighten. Aim for rhythm-and-beat, not droning cacophony. Seek clarity over confusion. Early on, seek action over explanation. Mystery over answer. Leave things out rather than putting everything in. That’s not to say you cannot engage in a few flourishes of language. That’s not to say there won’t be a kind of poetry to your description, or a certain creative stuntery in terms of metaphor. But those are not the point of what you’re doing. Those are enhancements. They serve mood. They are a kind of narrative punctuation. They are single bites, not whole meals.

If your whole meal is just a wall of language, it’s both too much and not enough. It’s too much language, and not enough of why the fuck would I keep reading? Words are what we read, not why we read. They do not exist to serve themselves but rather, the purpose of conveying information. And the information you’re trying to convey is: story.

Kill exposition. Trim description to the leanest of cuts.

The fat will come later. The conversation will deepen as the story grows.

Do not build a wall of words.

Stop overwriting.

More on this later.


Everything is character.

Because character is story.

This is not exaggeration. We read stories for characters. Characters are the prime movers of story. They say shit and they do shit and they want things and they are afraid of things and that’s it. That’s plot, story, that’s all of it. We may stay with a story for a whole lot of reasons, but our driving reason is character. Character compels us because we are people reading stories about people. Even when they’re robots or dragons or robot-dragons or orangutan secret agents, they’re still people for purposes of our narrative consumption. We see ourselves as characters in our own stories and so we seek characters within stories. It’s like an empathy bridge.

Your story must connect us to character immediately.

Because otherwise, I just don’t care. No threat or suspense or mystery is particularly engaging if it doesn’t have a character to reflect and represent it. Without strong character shot through the first page, everything you’re giving me is a data point.

I don’t read stories to consume data points.

If your story begins and I have no sense of character or why I should give a single slippery fuck about them, what’s the point? I’m looking for connection. I want to tether myself to a character. I want to care enough to continue reading. Make me care. It’s not enough to make me think. You can worry about my intellectual connection to the story later. Right now? Hit me in the emotions. Make me feel something. PUNCH ME IN MY HEARTBUCKET.


I’m bored. Your first page has bored me. Because nothing is happening. I don’t mean that the first moment should be cataclysm and clamor — but something needs to happen. Or be in the midst of happening. Repeat after me: action, dialogue, action, dialogue. Quick description as connective tissue. Short, sharp shock. Activity over passivity.

And hey, I get it. This is easier said than done. What I just told you above about character makes this part doubly tricky, and only goes to show just what an amazing trick it is to write a jaw-dropping face-kicking sphincter-clencher of a first page. It’s threading like, seven different needles in one swift movement. You’re trying to convey action and conversation but not without also giving us enough character to care but not so much character that you’re overwriting and you’re trying to say what you need to say at the bare minimum while still trying to maintain style and energy and you wanna offer mystery but not confusion and you want to inject genre without being ham-fisted and you wanna worldbuild a little bit but not write an encyclopedia…

It’s hard.

I get it.

But damnit, penmonkey, you gotta try.

And you’re best starting off with:

Something Is Happening.

Right fucking now. And that’s why the story must be told and heard right fucking now.

Urgency! Impetus! Incitement! Excitement!


And here, the biggest lesson of them all, and a summation of all the problems.

You are in the way of your story.

Hard truth: writing is actually not that important.

Writing is a mechanism.

It’s an inelegant middleman to what we do. It’s a shame, in some ways, that we even call ourselves writers, because it describes only the mechanical act of what we do. It’s a vital mechanism, sure, but by describing it as the prominent thing, it tends to suggest, well, prominence.

But our writing must serve story.

Story does not serve writing.

This is cart-before-horse stuff, but important to realize.

Listen, in what we do there exist three essential participants.

We have:

The tale, the teller of the tale, and the listener of the tale.

Story. Author. And audience.

That’s it.

You are two-thirds of that equation. You are the story (or, by proxy, its architect) and the teller of the story. The telling of the story is most often done through writing — through that mechanical act, and because it’s the act you can sit and watch, it’s the one that is used to describe our role. I AM WRITER, you say, and so you focus so much on the actual writing you forget that there’s this other invisible — but altogether more critical — part, which is whatyou’re writing.

So, what happens is, early on, you put so much on the page. You write and write and write and use too many words and too much exposition and big meaty paragraphs and at the end all it serves to do is create distance between the tale and the listener of the tale.

It keeps the audience at arm’s length.

Quit that shit.

Bring the audience into the story. This is at the heart of show, don’t tell — which is a rule that can and should be broken at times, but at its core remains a reasonable notion: don’t talk at, don’t preach, don’t lecture, don’t fill their time with unnecessary wordsmithy.

Get. To. The. Point.

And the point is the story. Not the words used to tell that story.

Here, look at it this way: you ever have a conversation with someone and they tell you a story — something that happened to them, some thing at work, some wacky sexual escapade featuring an escaped circus shark and a kale farmer named “Dave” — and you just want to smack them around and tell them to get to the actual story? Like, they just dick around in the telling of the tale, orbiting the juicy bits and taking too goddamn long to just spit it out? Maybe they think they’re creating suspense, but they’re only creating frustration. Or maybe they know — as we all do, sometimes — that the story they’re telling is actually ALL HAT, NO COWBOY, and they’re trying to fill the time with hot air in much the same way you might pad a college paper with several shovels of additional horseshit to lend it weight (and, incidentally, stench)?

Stop doing that.

Stop wasting time.

Get the fuck out of the way of your story.

You are a facilitator. Writing is a mechanism. It can be an artful and beautiful mechanism, but without substance behind it — without you actually saying something and sharing a story — it is a hollow, gutless art. The story is what your audience wants, needs, and cares about.

* * *

Available for a short time:

The Gonzo Big eBook Bundle. Seven books. Pay-what-you want, starting at ten bucks.

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5 Reasons We Need Openly-Gay Speculative Fiction Writers

My second book, A Fallen Hero Rises (available on AmazonB&N or Smashwords) features a main character who just so happens to be gay. People I trusted and respected advised me against it. They said it would ruin sales and alienate fantasy readers. I said screw it. I’m telling the story I want to tell because I know there’s an audience for it. I just had to find it. So I decided to research openly-gay speculative fiction writers to learn from them.

Suddenly it felt like I watching an episode of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago? Finding information on successful, openly-gay speculative fiction writers is harder than you would expect. And that’s why I wrote this article.

Here are five reasons we need more openly-gay speculative fiction writers.

1. LGBT Youth Need Gay Heroes

Recently Anthony Mackie, actor, said the following:

“When I first got this [Captain America] role I just cried like a baby because I was like, ‘Wow, next Halloween, I’m gonna open the door and there’s gonna be a little kid dressed as the Falcon. That’s the thing that always gets me. I feel like everybody deserves that. I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett [Johansson] does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, because little girls deserve that. There’s so many of these little people out here doing awful things for money in the world of being famous. And little girls see that. They should have the opposite spectrum of that to look up to.”

If young girls need a Wonder Woman movie, LGBT youth need a Northstar movie or perhaps a Batwoman movie. Fictional allows us to create an internal mythology. It shapes the way we view the world. However, we also need real life heroes, role models young gay men and women can look up to.

Link: Top 10 Fantasy Novels That Happen to Have Gay People In Them

2. We Need to Create an LBGT Identity

What does it mean to be gay? That depends on the media you follow. Some view it as an abomination, a perversion. Others view it as a dirty secret. So is it any wonder that teen suicide rates are higher for LGBT youth? (source: here) Gay writers of speculative fiction need to stand up and create an identity. We cannot let the nebulous “main stream media” create if for us.

Don’t underestimate the power of Ellen DeGeneres. Her visibility and acceptance has probably done more to make gay men and women feel safe than dozens of laws. Why? Because she’s allowed to exist. Just the fact she’s on TV every day may help some youth decide not to end it all.

Chuck Palahniuk: Source: http://chuckpalahniuk.net/news/fight-club-sequels-plot-revealed

3. Visibility Improves Acceptance

“I’m not straight, and I’m not gay. I’m not bisexual. I want out of the labels. I don’t want my whole life crammed into a single word. A story. I want to find something else, unknowable, some place to be that’s not on the map. A real adventure.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Nice try, Chuck. But get real. Imagine the response if a black man stood up and said “I’m not black.” One of my heroes is Sidney Poitier. Seeing an educated, articulate black man helped me realize I did not have to be a stereotype. No matter what racist bull was thrown at him, Poitier always maintained a level of dignity. His success and visibility changed my life.

So where are the gay writers? Do a Google search for famous gay writers. Go on. Do it. The number may surprise you. Then look at how many of them write speculative fiction.  Look at how many of them stand up proudly as role models and compare it to those that are dragged out like Chuck Palahniuk.

I’m not going to lie: I’m a little bit in love with Palahniuk. Choke may be one of the best-written novels in the English language. Does it matter that he’s gay? It shouldn’t. But it does. Seeing another gay man succeed helps me realize it’s possible for me to succeed. No one’s tried to kill him or imprison him yet so maybe I’m safe.

4. Being Gay is Still Dangerous

Maybe it seems ridiculous to worry I’ll be killed by standing up and saying I’m gay. If you think that, it’s probably because you’re not reading the same news I am. There are several countries around the world that routinely imprison or kill gay men and women. Also consider the anti-gay law fiasco in Arizona earlier this year and the other states considering similar laws. (Source: here) Times have changed. But not that much

Even the CDC has a page devoted to violence and harassment aimed at LGBT youth. (Source: here)
Link: 76 Countries Where Anti-Gay Laws Are As Bad or Worse Than Russia

5. Role Models Change Lives.

Another of my role models is Clive Barker. His writing was fresh and provocative, completely revamping the way I looked at fiction. He also happened to be gay. When I first discovered him, back in the 1990s, I realized that he was allowed to be gay and successful. Suddenly I realized the two things did not have to be mutually exclusive. I didn’t have to hide because he was alive. No one was trying to kill him. He wasn’t suppressed by main stream media. His sexuality colors all his writing but is not the focus of his fame.

Because of Clive Barker, it is easier for me to be myself. My hero.

Clive Barker. Source: http://monkeypantz.net/misfit-monday-clive-barker/


Despite all my searching, I still can’t find a list of speculative authors who happen to be openly gay. So I will create one. Stay tuned.

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The Bone Church: Real and Imagined

bone church exteriorThe Ossuary at Sedlec – or Bone Church of Kutna Hora as it’s more commonly known – is a relatively plain church from the exterior. At least as far as Old World European standards go. It sits about an hour outside of Prague in the Czech Republic, and last time I was there, some ten years ago, it was still a dingy mustard color on the outside.

In fairness, most ossuaries are just church basements filled with neatly piled up human bones, so there typically isn’t anything out of the ordinary about the actual structure it’s housed in. There’s no electrically powered Grim Reaper standing with a scythe a chuckling a deep MWAAHHAAHAAA, the way there is at any self-respecting haunted house.

In fact, the only feature that advertised that there just might be more than meets the eye to The Bone Church of Kutna Hora was the skull and crossbones spiked at the top of its spire – right where you’d usually see a crucifix.

Otherwise, the place just sat there like Boris Karloff without make-up.

bone head

When I visited on a gloomy October day in 2004, dragging my 20 month-old son and a prehistoric digital camera with me, I thought I would have to muscle my way through a throng of tourists.

But we were alone there.

Suitably, the only sounds we could hear were my own boot heels clicking on the stone tiles as we entered the foyer, the wheels of my son’s dilapidated MacLaren stroller and the whistle of a fall wind – the kind that blows tufts of dead leaves in a swirl. Some of those, mostly a fresh cluster of fiery orange oaks, blew with us into the Bone Church. A young man, very pale and black haired with a warm smile and crooked teeth, greeted us.

It should have been eerie, but it was exquisite.

A short staircase – also stone – led us down into the chamber, where an enormous chandelier lorded over the place. It was fashioned entirely of human bone – utilizing every bone in the human body, the young man told us in his hushed, churchy voice. The skulls would have held candles, I suppose, but the chandelier was unlit. In fact, the only light in the Bone Church came from the outside through a few kidney-shaped Gothic windows.

There were urns made primarily of femurs, a bone Coat of Arms belonging to the Schwarzenberg family, an endless garland (skull-vertebrae-vertebrae-knee cap, skull-tibia-skull-tibia) strung loosely along the trim like it was Christmas and several pyramids constructed of bones – ones that sat in iron-barred enclaves like slayed prisoners.bone church chandelier

My son and I stood there absorbing the sheer magnitude of death around us. People who’d died of flu, arsenic poisoning, small pox, swords thrust into their rib cage, a heart-attack, a mallet to the temple, infection, childbirth, trampling, a broken heart.

The bones of some 30,000 Christians beautified this stark, chapel-like holy chamber – prominent and presumably pious Christians who had been promised burial in the Church of All Saints cemetery. But due to a string of plagues and wars, had found themselves without a place to land after they blew their last breath.

bone church 6

It occurred to me this strange permanent installation of sacred art – the devil’s art, some called it – was actually a clever solution to a very sensitive dilemma. Church teachings, after all, forbade cremation. And the poor souls who had counted on burial in the Church of All Saints holy cemetery had paid considerable tithes to earn their way into some kind of dignified and noble entombment.

And what could be more noble than the care and inspired vision required to create such a communal, yet deeply personal way to honor the departed? To me, it was the ultimate expression of both grief and hope.

cherub bone church

My little son – and my first and most tender reminder of my own mortality – was getting restless and hungry, so I snapped a couple of pictures and we left.

But The Bone Church stayed with me and made its way into a story I’d begun writing.

The Bone Church: A Novel is now available on Amazon:



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JA Konrath’s wonderful insights into today’s world of digital publishing:




Letter from a Literary Agent

I found this in my inbox yesterday:

First off, thank you. I’ve been struggling with a lot of aspects of working “inside” the publishing industry lately. I found your blog following a link trail one day last week. I sat down and promptly started reading from 2009(when you dove into self-publishing) until present. You make a ton of sense.
Unfortunately, you didn’t do anything to make me feel better about my current position (although, that’s not your job). I’ve been struggling with my role as an advocate for authors. I have been working on one contract now for almost four months. I keep going back to fight for my client and each round feels like I’m getting both closer and farther away from an agreement that will make either one of us any money. I work mainly with small presses that offer better terms that the large houses, but even those terms feel unfair to my clients.
The challenge comes in continuing to seek out contracts for my clients when I keep doubting that it is the best path for them. At the same time, I know many of my clients have no desire to self-publish. They don’t want to mess with the back-end aspects, even if that costs them money in the long term. Will they change their minds after a few contracts have run their course? Maybe, but only time will tell.
I love your estribution model, but I don’t think it’s feasible for me. Neither I nor my agency have the kind of liquid capital to invest heavily in multiple clients when it comes to things such as editing, cover art, etc. I want to help my clients, but I don’t personally have the money to invest in their careers. What I do have is time, skills and a deep desire to give my clients the best chance at success.
You have so many great ideas about publishing and I admire the way you innovate. I’m wondering if you have thought of any other models, similar to estribution, that would allow me to help a client who is hesitant to self-publish without tying up money I don’t have. I want to do what’s right by my clients, but right now any path feels like a loss when I know they don’t want to self-pub, but are unlikely to be happy in the years to come with most traditional deals.
I know you get a metric ton of email, so I understand if you can’t answer this. If you decide to address this topic on your blog, I just ask that you keep me anonymous. I do plan to discuss this with the owner of my agency, but don’t want to blindside her. I appreciate your understanding.
Joe sez: I’ve said before that no one owes you a living. That goes for agents as well as authors.
In the past, agents filled an essential role in the legacy publishing industry. If you convinced a good literary agent to represent you, it improved your odds at getting your book read by a publisher, and consequently improved your odds at getting published.
I couldn’t have gotten pubbed without my agent. And besides helping me land my legacy contracts, she has also fought to improve their terms, and sold dozens of subsidiary rights (audio, foreign, movie).
Since I began to self-pub, my agent has helped me in an estributor capacity, especially when it comes to my collaborations. I find the percentage she recieves is well worth the work and monetary investment she puts in.
But how about agents, like the one who sent me the above email, who want to work with authors but can’t invest money in cover art and formatting?
I have some advice. And the advice is the same as it is for authors who don’t want to self-publish:
Find another line of work.
I’m not trying to be flippant, or harsh. I’m being entirely realistic. Allow me to use some analogies.
“I want to be a mechanic, but don’t want to learn how to work on engines.”
I suppose you could limit yourself to just brakes, or transmissions, but you won’t be able to find work as easily, and you’re missing out on a big part of what the title mechanic means.
“I want my art to hang in museums, but don’t know how to get it in there.”
Before you create a key, study the lock. Working on something and expecting the world to embrace it doesn’t happen too often.
“I want to be a surgeon, but am afraid of the sight of blood.”
Maybe you can become a tree surgeon.
“I want to play poker for a living, but not with my money.”
No one is going to stake you until you prove yourself. And once you prove yourself, you probably won’t need anyone to stake you.
“I want to manufacture wagon wheels, but there isn’t a market for them anymore.”
You can still make all the wagon wheels you want to. Just don’t expect to sell any.
“I want to be a contract lawyer, but my contracts are never accepted by either negotiating party.”
Sounds like you won’t get a lot of business.
My point is that the roles of writers, and agents, have changed. The industry has changed. Expectations have changed. What was once the norm is now the exception.
Writers, and agents, if they want to thrive (or even survive) have to develop new skills, take on new responsibilities, and take different chances.
This means learning about the current state of the industry, doing things outside your comfort zone, and ponying up a few bucks.
I expect contract negotiations with publishers to get even harder as more and more publishers become aware that they aren’t needed. Since there continue to be writers who insist on going the legacy route, publishers will make those writers pay.
Consider the taxi cab. There are many alternatives to getting around town, and all of them are cheaper. Yet cabs can command a premium, because they provide a service for those who want it. Just like publishers.
You can’t negotiate with a cab driver for a lower fare.
Consider textbooks. As a student, you’re forced to pay $200 for a single book. The publishers know this, and they price accordingly. The school bookstores also know this, and they make used books almost as expensive as new books. They gouge. It’s human nature. If you can get more for something, you will.
Publishing, as of April 2014, is a market still controlled by publishers. They can set the terms, because there are still plenty of eager authors willing to give up 70% royalties and rights forever. When more authors catch on that signing a legacy deal isn’t in their best interests, publishers will begin to leverage everything they can from those who remain.

One might think the opposite will happen: that publishers will try to lure authors to them with better terms.

I don’t see that happening. Profit margins are already too thin, and while the Big 5 keep posting record sales figures thanks to ebooks, the trend won’t last forever. As paper sales dwindle and their monopoly on distribution ends, and more and more authors leave legacy to self-pub, publishers will squeeze the suppliers (authors) they still have. Right now advances are shrinking, some acquisitions aren’t even getting paper releases, and print runs are down. When belts begin to tighten, the last thing publishers will do is offer authors more of the pie. Like starving dogs, the Big 5 will viciously fight over the scraps that remain.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe publishers will start treating authors fairly, and become more open to negotiation with agents. And then Satan and I will go ice-skating in hell.

There are only two essential groups in the reader/writer relationship: readers and writers. Everyone else is a middleman who has to prove their value.

Some writers don’t want to self-publish, so there will be some agents and some publishers who can assist them for a piece of the pie. But as more and more writers learn how easy it is to reach readers, I see those who pursue careers as agents, or those who work in the publishing industry, becoming a niche.
Unless publishers and agents offer authors something they really want, at a cost authors are willing to pay, we’re going to see their numbers dwindle.
If you are an author who doesn’t want to get your hands dirty by self-publishing, your choices are going to be limited. If you are an agent who can’t assist writers by becoming an estributor, your choices are going to be limited.
It doesn’t have anything to do with what’s fair. Or how things used to be. Or what authors and agents want.
It has everything to do with how readers are finding books to read.
If you want to be a part of the reader/writer business transaction, there is no magic bullet or formula or business model that I’m aware of which doesn’t involve either legacy publishing or estribution. If you want to work with authors, you have to give authors something they want.
It would be great if we could shape the world into what we want it to be, but mostly we have to figure out how to work with how things are.
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Suffering Fools

Are you a writer?
Do you leave comments on forums, blogs, and/or social networks?If either or both apply to you, you’ve probably encountered pinheads before.

Perhaps they left you a snotty book review. Maybe they attacked you instead of your book. Maybe they didn’t even read the book.

Perhaps they trolled your blog, or tried to engage you in a flame war in a forum, or misquoted you or lied about you.

If so, welcome to the Internet, where people write things they’d never say to your face, and anonymity makes the weakest coward brave and full of themself.

There is a simple, yet effective, way to deal with pinheads:

Ignore them.

You shouldn’t Google yourself, or read your reviews, or seek out what others are saying about you, good or bad. None of it matters. The only people that matter are those in your inner circle. The rest of the world has no power over you unless you allow it.

Don’t allow it. There will always be negative people. There will always be trolls. There will always be pinheads. It isn’t your job to deal with them. They aren’t worth your time.

Ignore them.

If you don’t have people who disagree with you, dislike you, and want you to fail, you aren’t living up to your potential.

Q: But Joe, someone just gave me a one star review for no reason at all.

A: Ignore them.

Q: But I only have a few reviews, and that blew my four star average.

A: If it is against the site’s rules, report the review. But you’d be better off not reading your reviews in the first place. Readers aren’t stupid. They can sniff out hateful one-star reviews the same way they can sniff out phony five-star reviews.

Q: What if the review misrepresents the book? Should I reply?

A: In 99.99% of circumstances, you shouldn’t reply to a review. On a very rare occassion (like this one) you can add a comment. But always be gracious, and keep your tone respectful.

Q: But what if someone really hurt my feelings? What should I do?

A: Have a beer and talk to your best friend. But don’t respond to the pinhead.

Q: Don’t you respond to pinheads on your blog?

A: I control my blog, and I don’t mind being trolled. But if things get out of hand, I kick people out and delete their comments. The only place you’ll have similar power is on your own blog. Everywhere else on the Internet, you should ignore them.

Q: You said to ignore them, but you just admitted that sometimes you don’t ignore them.

A: There aren’t many absolutes in life. There will usually be exceptions. But overall your best bet is to leave the tools in the toolbox. Don’t engage. Don’t respond. Ignore them.

Q: But this pinhead/review/comment is hurting my sales. How can I ignore that?

A: If you’re writing good books, one person/review/comment won’t hurt your sales. A hundred people/reviews/comments won’t hurt your sales.

Q: But I’m being systematically targeted by a cadre of haters who stalk me 24/7.

A: In very, very, very rare cases, you can involve the authorities. But my guess is you’re just being overly touchy. The baddest of the bad people on the Internet thrive on provoking responses. If you don’t respond, you take away their power.

Q: What if other people see those lies about me? Shouldn’t I reply?

A: No. And give people some credit. Do you ever Google someone, find something negative someone said about them, and assume that’s all there is to know? Or do you research further?

EVERY celebrity has haters. EVERY author has one star reviews. You aren’t being persecuted. Don’t take it personally, because you’re not that special. You’re just one of billions of Internet users who have been trolled. Welcome to the human race.

Q: But what about intelligent discourse? Do I need to avoid all debate?

A: Debate those who debate respectfully. Ignore those who don’t.

Q: Why are there so many pinheads on the Internet?

A: Human beings have a desire for control. It’s genetic. For some, the need for control extends beyond self. Some people with certain personality disorders (sociopaths, grandiose narcissists, those with low self-esteem and/or small penises) need to control others in order to feel good about themselves. One way to control someone is to tweak their emotional response.

That’s why you shouldn’t engage. If you don’t like what someone says, the greatest gift you can give that pinhead is to react.

Ignore them. Write that on a Post-It note if you have to and stick it to your monitor.

No one else cares if people are saying shit about you. The only one who cares is you. You need to pay more attention to your writing, and no attention to the pinheads.

Now turn off Google Alerts and get back to work.